BURRILLVILLE – If you’ve driven through the center of Pascoag after dark this week, you have no doubt noticed the change in scenery.
Red, white and blue lights create a patriotic display above the village businesses, marking the way along Pascoag Main Street, from George’s Pizza to Fountain Square.
The added charm is more than just a passing gimmick, according to Jim Langlois, chairman of the Burrillville Redevelopment Agency.
The lighting is permanent, a new professional-grade, year-round feature installed as the latest enhancement to the area by a group focused on improving economic conditions throughout Burrillville. The lights are fully programable, and can be set to display various colors and themes, blinking, twinkling or fading to add ambiance through the passing seasons.
And the addition is just the first phase in the group’s latest large-scale initiative to continue adding life to the village, one of five planned for the coming year.
“The Redevelopment Agency is trying to create a better space in downtown Pascoag,” Langlois told NRI NOW. “The thinking is: it’s just going to highlight that area and make it more festive.”
Pascoag Utility District provided volunteer labor and equipment to install the display, completing a project – purchased with funding in the agency’s budget – on Monday, May 23. Langlois noted that while street lighting along the road was adequate, the group wanted to draw more attention to the area and the businesses that call it home.
“We wanted something up-to-date and a little more modern,” he said.
Agency members did some research, and purchased the lighting from a company called Jasco through a licensed seller, Graybar Electric in Cranston. Weather proof and remote control, the strings can now be lit in green for St. Patrick’s Day, or orange for Halloween.
“They are the latest technology,” Langlois said. “They won’t sag. They wont stretch. It’s really pretty neat.”
Installation wasn’t a quick fix either. A PUD crew, headed by Asst. General Manager of Operations William Guertin, had to first install “guy wire,” tension cables designed for stability, and then return to string the permanent fixtures.
“The cable is complex,” Langlois explained. “Pascoag Utility is owed a great deals of thanks.”
It’s a small, but important improvement to the village by an agency that’s been adding features and working to eliminate blight in Pascoag for well over a decade. From adding parks and walking paths, to attracting new businesses – and the residents to patronize them with additional housing – the agency has utilized various development tactics in hopes to restore vibrancy to the former mill village.
“It plays to a bigger picture,” Langlois said.
It hasn’t been easy. Between a pandemic that led to a labor and supply shortage, to inflation and a failing economy, many of the business ventures that have come to Pascoag in recent years have found their stays to be short-lived. Thai Royal, which closed for good last week, is just that latest to call it quits, leaving behind another empty storefront, even as foot traffic grows.
Still, Langlois points to the positive and lasting improvements, from a walkable area with increasing charm, to endeavors that have found a level of ongoing success, such as Bravo Brewing Company and Cow’s Tail Deli.
And as for the former Thai restaurant’s now-vacant space, which features a patio with a waterfall view?
“Something’s coming,” Langlois said.
“I’m not going to say it isn’t a battle, but we keep moving forward,” said Langlois. “We have focused long and hard on this stretch of Pascoag, and we are getting there.”
The agency, formed in 2000 with the mission of revitalizing Burrillville’s sleepy villages, found some sustained success in Harrisville, in a revitalization effort that created affordable housing, a new library and a pavilion, and was the winner of a Grow Smart Award in 2012.
In Pascoag, Phase II of the agency’s latest plan is creation of the new, “Fountain Park.” Watch for a story on that project on NRI NOW in the coming months.
Visibly, residents may have already noticed work at nearby Gonyea Park, where the agency recently planted a row of pine trees, meant to decrease noise in a space already enjoyed by many locals.
“As they grow in that will be a natural barrier,” Langlois said, noting that the change came after speaking with residents. “We are always looking for feedback.”
In the coming weeks, a structure creating shade will also be added to the park space, a year-round metal roof over the deck area, with wooden beams and electricity, that can double as small bandstand. The structure, Langlois said, is due to be delivered to town any day and will be installed by Burrillville’s Department of Public Works.
Across the street from Gonyea is a second park created by the group last fall, which features its own parking lot, picnic tables and a walkway down to the nearby river. The agency hopes to connect the park to the neighboring riverwalk via a bridge across the river, and has applied for grant funding. Soon, the agency will begin more improvements to riverwalk itself, focusing on the area between Sayles Avenue and Gonyea.
It’s all part of greater plan to improve economic conditions and quality of life not just in Pascoag, but the town as a whole, by strategic improvements to one village at a time. The first beneficiary, they hope, will be the business owners, who find added incentive to keep their establishments in town.
“We’re trying to create that atmosphere to help these people thrive,” Langlois said.